Generations are social constructs. There is no chemical or biological difference between Gen-Xers and Millennials, but we talk about them as if they were different species. That Gen-Xers grew up “independent” and Millennials grew up “entitled” aren’t anthropological observations. Rather, they’re marginally useful stereotypes. If it’s true that members of a certain age group have commonalities that they don’t fully share with older or younger groups, this isn’t the result of generational determinism. It’s just circumstance.
The circumstances surrounding the Millennial generation are particularly strange. Many came of age in the longest economic expansion of the 20th century and graduated into the worst recession since the 1930s. The abrupt contraction of opportunity has left a mark. Unemployment among 18- to 24-year-olds was 16% in 2011, twice as high as the national average. Median earnings fell more for the young than any other cohort, and college debt, most of which is held by 20-somethings, is at an all-time high.
With education comes opportunity. That’s the deal, as this generation understood it. Now, they’re the highest-educated generation in American history, and they’ve graduated into … this.
When adults wonder what’s the matter with the Millennial generation that has increasingly chosen to live with their parents and put off marriage and homeownership, the first thing to say is that they’re using the word “chosen” wrong. Nobody chose this. The economy chose for them.
Read more. [Image: Scarleth White/Flickr]